A new poll for the Pew Research Center found that an overwhelming 73% of Americans favor the legalization of medical marijuana for those who get a prescription from a doctor. Only 23% of the country opposes the idea of medical marijuana. While medical marijuana is only legal in a minority of states, and is officially illegal under current federal law, support for the idea is broad-based throughout the country.
On the issue of whether or not to fully legalize the use of marijuana for non-medical purposes, the country is more divided. The poll found 41% supported full marijuana legalization, with 52% opposed. While this survey shows a narrow majority still opposed, these numbers represent a dramatic shift. Back in 2008, 35% supported full legalization, and 57% opposed. That is a net increase of 11 points in only two years.
Currently, California is scheduled to vote on a ballot initiative to fully legalize, tax, and regulate the sale of cannabis for those over the age of 21. Groups in other states, like Washington and Oregon, are also working on possibly getting similar measure on their state ballots.
For supporters of legalization in those states, the poll does contain some good news. While across the country a majority opposes full legalization of cannabis, in states that have previously passed laws allowing the use of medical marijuana (which includes California, Washington, and Oregon), a plurality support complete legalization: 48% in favor, 46% opposed.
The polling clearly shows a general trend over the last twenty years has been increasing support for making some degree of personal marijuana use legal. Whether public opinion has yet reached the point where a majority of voters in more Democratic-leaning states, like California, support legalization is a question that we know will be answered in November.